Cover Story: Bachmann out - who benefits?

ROCK HILL, SC (WBTV) - Michele Bachmann backs out.  The impact her decision will have on presidential politics in the Carolinas.

Michele Bachmann announced on Wednesday she is suspending her presidential campaign after a poor showing in Iowa.

So how does this shakeup the race in South Carolina?  Which candidate is going to win over her supporters in the state's primary January 21?

After some early predictions of a boring matchup, it's been anything but.

There's a three-way race after Iowa.  The top-two finishers are in the closest margin of victory ever for a GOP presidential context.  And already one of the candidates is gone.

Tuesday night she was vowing to fight on.  Michele Bachmann saying she would replace the current Michelle, the First Lady.

"Who knows maybe even another Michelle in the White House?" questioned Bachmann.

But less than 12 hours later for this Michele it was over.

"Last night, the people of Iowa spoke," she said.

Quite a turnaround for a woman who won the Iowa straw poll this summer, cast herself as a native daughter and campaigned so fiercely in South Carolina.

"South Carolina.. you can do it."

Bachmann finished dead last in Iowa.

With Mitt Romney appearing to have a lock on New Hampshire next week (he's from next-door Massachusetts) those who aren't Romney will try to take South Carolina.

Here nearly 60-percent of Republican voters identify themselves as evangelicals - a constituency Bachmann appealed to.

So why didn't she stick it out?

Winthrop University Chair of Political Science Dr. Karen Kedrowski said, "A poor showing in Iowa means that you have difficulty raising money in the future. So even though she had money right now she might not have it in a week to be able to sustain a campaign even for the next three weeks into South Carolina."

TV ads from the candidates are already on the air in South Carolina.

Mitt Romney and Rick Perry have the biggest campaign war chests and Perry could benefit from a Bachmann exit.

Also, expected to pick up a boost is Rick Santorum who finished neck-in-neck with Romney in Iowa.

"There is a significant group that's still looking for somebody who's not Mitt Romney," said Kedrowski.

Wednesday, South Carolina's GOP Chairman predicted it'll be a fierce fight and put the candidates on notice.

"There's no clear frontrunner. Anybody can win this in the next 16 days," said Chad Connelly.  "As much as the TV ads, social media matter.. our voters still expect to get to know you as a candidate."

Which is what folks in Baxter Village - Fort Mill were hoping to do.

Michele Bachmann had scheduled a campaign stop at Beef O'Brady's Restaurant Wednesday night.  The campaign called and canceled Wednesday morning when the presidential candidate bowed out.

"Well, we were disappointed. I think the whole community was excited to see a presidential hopeful. The restaurant, the staff. We were prepared. We were rolling out the red carpet," said Judi Phillips, Beef O'Brady's community and marketing director.

The conventional wisdom is whoever finishes in the bottom tier in Iowa has a hard time staying in the game - with support comes money - but few expected this early of an exit out of Iowa for any of the candidates.

So what should we expect out of South Carolina in the next 16 days?  We'll be starting to see the campaigns crank it up here.

Romney, Perry, Santorum and Gingrich will all be in the state starting Thursday and running through early next week.

After next Tuesday's New Hampshire Primary, then all the attention turns to South Carolina.

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